A woman crosses the empty Gran Via Street in Madrid. Picture: Getty
A woman crosses the empty Gran Via Street in Madrid. Picture: Getty

Spain’s death toll rises 25 per cent

As the number of coronavirus deaths in Italy soars past 5476, Spain has quickly become the new virus hot spot in Europe after reporting more than 1,700 deaths.

As the second-worst affected country, Spain has been forced to extend its lockdown by another 15 days to kerb the growing number of cases.

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez announced over the weekend that the lockdown would extend as the death toll continued to accelerate, with 462 deaths recorded in just the past 24 hours alone.

"There are hard days ahead," Sanchez said, noting the lockdown extension - if granted - would remain in place until April 11.

"Spain is among the most-affected countries in Europe and in the world.

"We have to get ready from a physiological and emotional standpoint. We have to get to the end of next week strong, very strong. The risk is everywhere."

There are concerns that Spain is following a similar path to Italy cases are increasing at a rapid rate and the only way to flatten the curve is by implementing a complete lockdown.

Germany and Greece became the latest European countries to tighten curtailments on movement as the virus kept nearly a billion people indoors and intensified fears of a global recession unlike any experienced for decades.

The death toll from the virus - which has up-ended lives and closed businesses and schools across the planet - surged to more than 14,600.

The epicentre is firmly in Europe after shifting from China where the illness first emerged late last year.

Italy's world-topping case from the pandemic soared to nearly 60,000 as the mediterranean country reported another 651 deaths on Sunday, a day after it overtook China for the highest number of fatalities.

Residents across France, where the death toll jumped to 562, remained shut in their homes. A curfew was imposed in some regions and the mayor of Paris called for even more drastic confinement measures in a city under lockdown.

Britain inched toward similar measures as Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned the country was a couple of weeks behind registering similar numbers to Italy.

Several European countries have already announced their own stimulus packages to stave off economic collapse.

In America, where deaths soared past 400 and cases exceeded 33,000, more than a third of residents are under various phases of lockdown, including in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.

Mayor de Blasio said New York was 10 days away from running out of ventilators. US President Donal Trump announced he had ordered the deployment of emergency health centres with capacity of 4,000 beds to New York, California and Washington - America's worst affected states.

As the pandemic overwhelms hospitals, doctors across the world are having to quickly prioritise patients based on their chances of survival, inflicting a huge moral burden.

"We go into medicine to heal people. Not to make choices about who can live," said Philippe Devos, an anaesthesiologist in Liege, Belgium.

While the number of cases in China - which reported its first local infection in four days on Sunday - has slumped dramatically since the crisis began, there are fears in Asia of "imported" cases from other hot spots like Europe.

Thailand reported its highest daily rise in cases, taking its total to nearly 600, while Singapore, Hong Kong and Malaysia have also reported a spike after numbers had plateaued earlier.

Normally bustling streets in New Delhi and Mumbai were mostly deserted and many shops shuttered during India's one-day nationwide "self-imposed curfew."

Across Africa, where healthcare systems are limited and social distancing measures are difficult in crowded cities, the new coronavirus has infected more than 1,200.

The Middle East also remains on high alert, where Iran - which suffered a major outbreak - reported 129 deaths on Sunday. It has so far refused to restrict movements.

Chile on Sunday became the latest Latin American country to restrict movement, with a night-time curfew. Ecuador, which had already imposed such a lockdown, saw its deaths double to 14, the region's highest after Brazil.

Accurate COVID-19 figures are difficult to obtain because many of the victims suffered from other illnesses, and infection rates are uncertain because of a lack of testing in many countries.

While the elderly and those with pre-existing medical conditions are the hardest hit by the virus, the WHO has warned that young people are also vulnerable.

- with AAP

Originally published as Spain's death toll rises 25 per cent